Gross! That’s Really in My Food?

by Sandy Todd Webster on Nov 01, 2012

Food for Thought

Prevention magazine gave readers a wake-up call a few months ago with an article (“7 Grossest Things in Your Food,” May 2012) that revealed some weird—and in some cases, disgusting—ingredients you may be consuming unknowingly. Learning more might change your mind about eating them again.

Author Mandy Oaklander reported the following list that vegans and vegetarians, especially, may want to pay attention to:

  1. Shellac in your candy. The shiny, pretty coating on candies is actually shellac, a resin secreted by the lac bug (a beetle).
  2. Prozac in your poultry. As reported in this column in our July‚ÄďAugust issue, Johns Hopkins scientists earlier this year published evidence of banned antibiotics, caffeine, acetaminophen, arsenic and the active ingredients in both Prozac® and Benadryl® in poultry feed. If poultry is consuming it, so are you.
  3. Sheep oil in your gum. Lanolin, a greasy oil that sheep produce in their wool, is used to soften foods. It is often identified as “gum base” on nutrition labels.
  4. Wood pulp in your cereal. This definitely packs a “high-fiber” punch, but maybe not the kind you want! Cellulose is a cheap filler made from nontoxic wood pulp or cotton. Oaklander reported that it’s “stuffed into shredded cheese, salad dressing and ice cream to thicken them.”
  5. Cow and hog enzymes in your cheese. To make some cheeses, rennet is needed for curdling. It contains an enzyme derived from the “fourth stomach of newborn calves,” Oakland wrote. Rennet is sometimes combined with pepsin, which is taken from hogs’ stomach glands.
  6. Duck feathers and human hair in your bread and bagel dough. L-Cystine is a nonessential amino acid that manufacturers use to soften bread dough. Guess where it’s derived from? If you’re vegan or vegetarian, read those labels carefully, buy from an artisanal baker or make your own bread.
  7. Fish bladders in your beer. Isinglass, made from fish swim bladders, is a form of collagen. Brewers use it to clump with yeast so the yeast settles at the bottom of the tank (or your glass). This makes your beer nice and clear, but some may think the process a little fishy.

To read Oaklander’s full report, go to and plug in the story title to the search bar.

Want more from Sandy Todd Webster?

Fitness Journal, Volume 9, Issue 11

Find the Perfect Job

More jobs, more applicants and more visits than any other fitness industry job board.

© 2012 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS, the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering approach to challenge in her career. Shortly after graduating journalism school from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she was recruited to L.A. for her first post in magazine publishing. After two decades of working on magazines--and now in the throes of applying the unbelieveable multi-media content delivery options available in the magazine 2.0 world--she is still "completely in love" with the creative process it takes to deliver meaningful, inspirational content to end users. She is an accomplished home cook and gardner who would love to combine those skills and passions with her health and fitness background to continue educating readers about a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.